Krystal Ball is a 28-year-old entrepeneur who is running for Congress from Virginia’s First District. A Democrat, Ball has long been considered a long-shot against the district’s Republican incumbent, and her race has garnered little national attention.
That changed last week when someone anonymously released a set of photographs taken at a private Christmas party several years ago. In the photos Ball is dressed as a sort of dominatrix Santa Claus, leading around a man dressed as Rudolph on a leash. Rudolph’s nose is dildo-shaped, and in some of the photos, Ball mimes masturbating and fellating it.
There’s no nudity or actual sexual activity in the photos, and it turns out — if it matters — that “Rudolph” was her then-husband. (She’s since remarried, and has a young daughter.) But the photos went viral quickly, turning a spotlight on Ball.
Yesterday Ball responded with a Huffington Post op-ed that rejects the “youthful indiscretions” script standard in these sorts of mini-scandals. In it, she refuses to apologize for the photos, and takes on the ways in which attacks like this attempt to shame women candidates.
I don’t believe these pictures were posted with a desire to just embarrass me; they wanted me to feel like a whore. They wanted me to collapse in a ball of embarrassment and to hang my head in shame. After all, when you are a woman named Krystal Ball, 28 years old, running for Congress, well, you get the picture. Stripper. Porn star. I’ve heard them all. So, I sat in my husband’s arms and cried. I thought about my little girl. I couldn’t stand the idea that I had somehow damaged the cause of young women running for office. I couldn’t stand the idea that I might shame my family, my friends or my supporters in some way.
The tactic of making female politicians into whores is nothing new. In fact, it happened to Meg Whitman, one of the world’s most accomplished business women, just last week. It’s part of this whole idea that female sexuality and serious work are incompatible. But I realized that photos like the ones of me, and ones much racier, would end up coming into the public sphere when women of my generation run for office. And I knew that there could be no other answer to the question than this: Society has to accept that women of my generation have sexual lives that are going to leak into the public sphere. Sooner or later, this is a reality that has to be faced, or many young women in my generation will not be able to run for office.
…I decided that I had to fight. I had to come out publicly and raise my voice on this issue, even though I risked becoming some joke candidate named Krystal Ball. I also risked drawing more attention to the photos, which I still find tremendously embarrassing, but mostly because I’m shy, not because I think that what I did was wrong.
…My biggest support during this whole sad episode of my life has come from supporters of Hillary Clinton. In effect, they have been telling me that what happened to me could have happened to one of their daughters. They will not see their daughters called whores when they run for office just because of some college or post-college party. They will not watch the tide of everything they fought for washed away by the public exposure of female sexuality. Once again, like the heroes that they were a generation ago when they made their careers, they are stepping up to protect young women like me and to support us and to help us to grow up. We are young women. And we are dedicated to serving this country. And we will run for office. And we will win.
Not that it should matter, by the way, since the whole “stripper name” slur is such a creepy classist piece of crap, but Krystal got her name from her dad, who was a physicist working on crystalline structures. It was a dorky geek joke.
Update | Unbelievable. NPR blogger Frank James calls Ball and Rich Iott, who makes a hobby of dressing up like a Nazi, “a matched set.” Right, Frank. Because there’s no difference between parading around in an SS officer’s uniform at the age of 58 (as a part of a “re-enactment” group that grossly misrepresents Nazi history) and getting a little raunchy at a private party when you’re 23.
Second Update | Now Rich Iott has gone beyond defending Nazi re-enactment to actually defending Nazis. In an interview with Anderson Cooper last night, he suggested that the Waffen SS were motivated by patriotism and anti-communism and declared that it’s inappropriate to “sit here and judge that today.”
Third Update | Frank claims that the photo story would be breaking the same way if Ball were a male candidate. The fifty hits this blog has had in the last hour from people searching for “Krystal Ball Rudolph” suggest otherwise.